Two weeks out from its planned kickoff date, Woodstock 50 has officially been canned. Initially reported by Variety and then confirmed by the festival’s co-founder, Michael Lang. Considering it had months of obstacles like changes in venue, financial backers pulling out, and then half of the festival’s lineup bailing, this is all probably the wisest option.
The festival, which was planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original 1969 weekender event, initially had the likes of Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Courtney Barnett, The Killers, Janelle Monaé, Imagine Dragons and more announced to hit the stage at the original Watkins Glen site alongside artists from the 1969 event like Santana, John Fogarty, and the renewed version of The Grateful Dead, Dead & Company.
Less than a month later, The Black Keys pulled out of the festival, citing scheduling clashes.
Pretty much as soon as the lineup was announced, the festival ran into trouble. First, the ticket sales were delayed after reports came out that the festival hadn’t applied for a permit to set up in Watkins Glen. Then the festival’s main financial backer, Japan-based Dentsu Aegis, claimed that the festival was cancelled, and stepped away.
Once festival organisers hit back with claims that it was all still going ahead as planned, the two groups got caught in a frantic legal battle, where Dentsu Aegis’ team claimed that the Woodstock 50 organisers didn’t have a lot of important structural and logistical stuff locked in, like security strategies, or an emergency plan.
The festival then had to find a new location, after the Watkins Glen site fell through. The Woodstock team applied to have the festival at Vernon Downs in New York multiple times, but that fell through as well.
Organisers then planned to move the festival to Maryland, which was a breach in the contracts given to all the expected artists, because it was outside of the agreed-upon distance from the original site. Artist management teams were told that acts didn’t have to commit to their contracts of playing the festival, but would be welcome if they wanted to perform. Miley Cyrus, The Raconteurs, Santana, and The Lumineers all dropped out, as well as a few others.
Finally, the whole thing was nixed, with Lang stating that they were “saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the festival we imagined with the great line-up we had booked” and encouraged all the booked artists to donate 10% of the fees they had already been paid to HeadCount – a non-for-profit that helps to promote democracy in the US.
“We thank the artists, fans and partners who stood by us even in the face of adversity,” Lang said.